Traffic and people snarling around Town and Country Around Town, posted by Allen Podell, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm Allen Podell is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Before it is too late, we need to widen the existing bridge over Embarcadero Road to accommodate 2 lanes of automobile traffic. Instead of the left turn signal at the entrance to the shopping center, the traffic would turn right, proceed to the back of the Paly property, and cross over Embarcadero Road to the shopping center. The shopping center traffic headed east on Embarcadero would proceed to the tracks and cross over to the Paly side, to loop onto Embarcadero Road. Since this is tight, only autos could be permitted. Trucks would have to use the El Camino Road entrance to the center.
A huge problem is caused by the crossing exiting traffic impeding the entering traffic from Embarcadero Road. This needs to be addressed. The flow into the center is poor. This results in only one lane on Embarcadero Road heading west.
Finally, the El Camino Road pedestrian crossing from the T&C blocks right turning traffic after it has passed through the gauntlet of lights and jams. This can be helped by an island at the center of the El Camino crossing, just as they do in Europe for wide roads. This way, the pedestrian crossing occurs in 2 steps, rather than a single, long crossing. The pedestrian crossing would be coincident with the El Camino left turns.
How can we possibly have more building on or near El Camino, when the traffic situation is already a mess? Get the Arrilaga center to pay for traffic improvements, before adding to the traffic.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2012 at 1:29 pm
Allen - while I agree the area is a mess, there is no way you will get PAUSD to allow more traffic onto their land - nor will you get Caltrain to allow use of the area adjacent to the tracks (especially with the potential HSR need for that land).
T&C renovated in stages so they would not be forced to address any of these issues. Not to mention that their parking lot is impossible to navigate.
Posted by Biker, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Dec 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm
Nooooo, Palo Alto should make Embarcadero one lane each way and El Camino 2 lanes each way with one lane devoted to busses only. Cut the parking at Paly by 2/3rds all to encourage everyone to either walk, ride their bikes or take public transportion. This is the goal of the leadership of Palo Alto to make it the most bike friendly city in the Country. It also has been discussed to make University Ave a mall to eliminate cars and trucks altogether.
Posted by Paly Alum, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Dec 6, 2012 at 12:31 am
I graduated from Paly in '82. There was such little traffic that students crossed from Paly to T&C in a crosswalk with no traffic light. But then again, the only reason to go to T & C was for Cheese House sandwiches. There was basically nothing else there!
It's great that T&C has improved and I'm guessing many are non-residents who frequent it. However, parking and Embarcadero has become a mess at certain hours. I wanted to shop at Trader Joe's one time but could not find parking so left. I see no solution in sight for Embarcadero Rd. since it cannot be widened.
Paly is building a new theatre and will need all the parking available.
Posted by Allen Podell, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2012 at 9:54 am
The traffic plan I propose would only improve the Paly access, not impede it. There is space to add the lanes near the tracks.
The other changes are not rocket science, being inspired by what others do.
Finally, University Avenue is a parking lot already. Embarcadero Road is the de facto road of choice for commuters to down town. It is time to face reality. Why work to improve fuel mileage when we ignore energy waste and pollution caused by inadequate traffic planning?
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2012 at 10:00 am
My own pet peeve about traffic around T & C is the entrance on ECR near Scotts. The left turn lane into it is too confusing for traffic wanting to turn left on Embarcadero which often makes dangerously late lane changes and because of the back ups on both left turn lanes it causes problems. There is also a problem for traffic coming out of T & C turning left there as they get caught in the melee to make matters worse.
Posted by Paly Alum, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Dec 6, 2012 at 10:49 am
Amen, "Resident"! Those familiar with that turn know the left turn lane for Embarcadero doesn't start until after the left turn for T&C. I am always worried someone will honk when I try to make the lane change into the left turn lane for Embarcadero if there is a huge line behind the T&C turn lane. Of course, if someone honks, it will be a non-Palo Altan because Palo Alto residents are intellectual enough to not honk. I am amazed at all the loud honking that occurs in other cities. Honks just to voice anger, not because there is an impending crash (which is the only excuse for a loud honk).
I am not sure what the solution is because if there is a "no left turn" sign for T&C it's only necessary when traffic backs up. I suppose it could state hours on it, but good luck in having everyone follow.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm
I am hoping that Paly/PAUSD, T&C and CPA will work together to redesign the Embarcadero Road entrance and successive signal lights.
Paly will eventually redesign its entrance and landscaping when they get to their next phase of building (including the new 500 seat theater). It is at that point in time that everyone should come together to consolidate the intersection down to one signal light, as well as provide a safe pedestrian crossing zone for the students.
Posted by pedestrian, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm
There is already a pedestrian/bike path on the overpass adjacent to the train tracks. The path travels the entire length of the Paly property and continues north to Town and Country (next to Trader Joes) and then to the downtown Caltrain station. This path is heavily used by commuters heading to and from downtown and the shopping center. Why are students not using it at lunch time?
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm
Pedestrian - kids do use the path occasionally, but its a bit out of the way for most of the campus. Kids (like most people) will take the shortest route. If the Embarcadero crossing at the light wasn't there, the kids would still cross Embarcadero somewhere (which they do at random spots anyway...) The light is to keep the kids safe, but it would be nice if the light and crosswalk were at the T&C entrance. That may work once construction at Paly is completed since the most direct walking path from campus to the T&C light won't go thru the parking spaces anymore.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2012 at 6:01 pm
Once again, like with Oregon (see other thread), there are a lot of backups, some safety issues and confusion detailed above with Embarcadero, T&Country, PALY and ECR and I really wish the traffic engineering department would improve the overall situation. Major thoroughfares should move better than this. I think PALY students should cross at the corner or the other crossing noted above. The mid-street crossing is too disruptive and leads to ridiculous backups at times.
Posted by Allen Podell, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm
Lots of people have ideas, and care about this. Can we get a hearing with the powers that be?
I would be willing to write up a detailed "straw-dog" proposal to get conversation going. I would circulate it to the interested parties. There must be better coordination of the affected organizations, all acting in their own self-interest to the detriment of us all.
The last time I got involved in city politics, the city manager did what he wanted, despite overwhelming evidence that it was misguided.
Posted by Scary traffic, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2012 at 10:50 pm
Unfortunately the city manager and his assistant are inclined to give developers whatever they want and the city is bursting at the seams.
I was driving on El Camino at 3:30 and at 5:30 today and the traffic was scary, jammed and aggressive.
But the city manager and his staff just this week were promoting 4 office towers at University and El Camino (MacArthur Park) so until we get a less development-promoting city manager, its hard to see that much will change.
Posted by Paly Alum, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Dec 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm
The overpass is way too far for students to walk to get to T&C at lunch time. They only have 40 minutes for lunch. It takes about 10 minutes to arrive at a restaurant in T&C, then they wait in line for 10 minutes, 10 minutes to walk back to the middle of campus = 30 minutes. There's only about 10 minutes to eat lunch. There is no way they have time to use the overpass.
Posted by Sorry Allen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2012 at 8:01 am
You will need to propose a solution that does not use Paly land. Also I dont believe your solution works. I just moves the problem out of the T&C parking lot and into the Paly parking lot. There is just too much traffic trying to go up that one lane choke point. My proposal is drivers go another way and avoid this left turn, there are alternatives. Alternately ride a bike to T&C as proposed above. Fixing it requires eliminating that choke point and I dont see that happening anytime soon.
Posted by AnotherIdea, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2012 at 8:23 am
Move the car wash down El Camino to that empty car dealership in Menlo Park, across from Safeway. Use the car wash area to redesign a proper entrance and exit to Town and Country from El Camino and along Encina Ave. There is a parking lot back there already which could then be used as the main entrance lot. Close the Embarcadero entrance - except for that right-turn only exit by Trader Joes. Have traffic enter only from El Camino. I think it would alleviate the ridiculous amount of congestion at that Paly/TC corner. The kids could still have their pedestrian crossing which would be safer since cars would not be scrambling to maneuver either in or around that TC entrance.
Posted by Paly Alum, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Dec 7, 2012 at 8:29 am
The biking solution is a non-solution. Other than the Paly students, many people who go to T&C are not from Palo Alto. Even if they were, how many people would possibly bike?!
The problem is that Embarcadero Rd. is a main route in and out of town for Menlo Park, Stanford Shopping Center visitors, and Stanford employees. Back in the 80s Stanford mall and T&C were quite bland so we didn't have all the traffic. I've been to Stanford at all hours during the weekdays and the parking lots are nearly full; it's a huge attraction.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2012 at 8:42 am
Embarcadero is the main signposted route from 101 to Stanford. In fact, I was stopped by motorbike cops a couple of weeks ago who were stopping traffic for 3 buses of football players en route to a game. We are not going to pretend that traffic on this road will go elsewhere. Apart from anything else, this underpass is crossing the railroad tracks and we do not have lots of options to cross the tracks in Palo Alto.
The design of T & C parking lot is the big problem. It was a bad intersection leaving Paly even before T & C was redone, now it is worse.
My idea might work. Make the main entrance/exit into T & C at the ECR Embarcadero intersection and make the lights treat this as a superintersection with 5 ways as opposed to 4 ways. Make designated lanes at all the light for T & C traffic and have arrowed lights moving left and right in all directions. No traffic can turn in any direction without an arrow and allow straight traffic along ECR and Embarcadero to have priority as this traffic has to move. All the turning traffic will learn if this is their best route or not. Also have a back entrance well signed into T & C.
I am not a traffic engineer, but I have seen similar designs in Europe and super 5 way intersections can and do work. Anything must be better than what we have at present.
Posted by Garden Gnome, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2012 at 10:53 am
The biking "solution" isn't terribly useful. We've already "donated" a few bicycles to the thieves that consider Paly their one-stop shop for bicycles and bicycle parts. Paly provides inadequate bike racks, and are thus effectively an accessory to the crime.
Posted by Ducatigirl, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm Ducatigirl is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Since most people go to T and C to shop, biking isn't a solution, unless you have a $3800 Dutch bike to carry home your booty. It was simply stoopid of the T and C owners to expand and then replace parking spots with landscaping. The result is increased demand for parking, but much less actual parking. The tricky navigation around this now-tight parking lot has caused more than a few fender benders, which the planners should be held accountable for.
Embarcadero is simply too narrow and already carried too much traffic for an additional load when T and C was expanded. I tend to agree with Resident that the Embarcadero entrance/exit should be closed off to cars. Make it a pedestrian entrance/exit only, and let the cars use the ECR entrances.
Posted by Ana, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm
Widening lanes(adding more lanes, removing traffic light, etc..) will only transfer bottleneck, not eliminate it(I suggest reading Vukan R. Vuchic, UPS Foundation Professor of Transportation Engineering).
You can't remove the crosswalk near PALY, because it is the shortest path to food for students and they will be crossing the road there anyway, that's the human nature.
Using bike path as a walk route is not a good idea, because even two people walking side by side block 80% of the path, imagine there will be at least 20 of them and I'm sure it won't be a fast-moving keeping to the right single file line.
The solution will be to carefully separate local and trough traffic(through traffic on ECR to use underpass like University/ECR, local traffic and pedestrians/cyclists use surface).
Posted by Food Service on Embarcadero, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm
I understand that the T&C merchants will be able to do street service for drivers on Embarcadero to serve hot beverages and sandwiches to idled drivers. This will be helpful to the merchants, and control the distress of drivers. As the two new restaurants open soon at T&C, there will be more time for drivers to savor all the foods of T&C. Leave it to our town to make lemons out of lemonade! We could even build a traffic food app so that drivers can shop for their snacks while stalled on the road. (Go bikes!)
Posted by litebug, a resident of another community, on Dec 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm
I lived in Palo Alto from 1970 to 2008. That corner was always problematic and just kept getting worse. It's a complex situation and piecemeal solutions, such as they've been, have done little to resolve it and at the same time the volume of traffic has increased. Off the top of my head I wonder about elevated bike/pedestrian bridge(s) to get rid of that part of the problem. There's a lot of pedestrian and bike traffic both from both Paly High and Stanford. If properly configured perhaps one bridge could serve both. But that leaves the other vehicular traffic problems. What's needed, I think, may be a fresh look at that whole corner and not more piecemeal efforts building on the inherently badly designed situation.
Posted by litebug, a resident of another community, on Dec 7, 2012 at 9:16 pm
I'd like to add that I was among those who fought tooth and talon against the T&C redevelopment scheme from the get-go. It started in ugliness, with many existing much-loved businesses forced out really nasty behavior by the greedy new owners. Many predicted these problems at the time but, of course, they were put down. As always was the case, the developer was right and everyone else was wrong. That's the Palo Alto priority: development, developoment, development. Ugly dense developments, over-crowding everywhere, horrible traffic...this was easy to leave despite a lot of history in P.A. It had left us before we left it. Good Luck but I don't hold out much hope at this point for any real improvement. Palo Alto lost its soul at some point. It had one when I moved there, but not by the time I left. Too bad.
Posted by TPOS, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2012 at 9:32 pm
palo alto mom had it right when she said 'T&C renovated in stages so they would not be forced to address any of these issues'. The city's hands were tied and they couldn't force the T&C owners to do a traffic plan. This problem has been created entirely by the T&C owners, and we should look to them for a solution. You can't expect Paly or the city to pay a fortune to fix a problem that they didn't create. Paly traffic is actually a lot better now than it used to be because so many students are biking instead of driving.
Posted by 100% bicycle commuter, a resident of Los Altos, on Dec 7, 2012 at 10:21 pm
@Garden Gnome wrote "Paly provides inadequate bike racks, and are thus effectively an accessory to the crime."
Are you associated with Paly? If so, I encourage you to contact the building manager. This seems like a problem that can be fixed with just a little involvement. At my own place of work, I've several times over the years spoken with the building manager and carried out actions myself to improve the bicycle parking situation. Keep in mind that the people in charge of bicycle racks almost certainly do not themselves use them, so they tend not to know what goes on daily.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 9, 2012 at 9:43 am
Whitman - its obvious from the amount of people and cars in T&C that plenty of customers are not going elsewhere. The shopping center is doing well enough that it can dictate who can rent from them, who gets kicked out and what hours they are required to be open, so there is no incentive for the owners of T&C to change anything.
Posted by build underground parking nearby, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 9, 2012 at 7:21 pm
lxm, and litebug
More traffic isn't necessarily related to the quality of the stores - past or future. There are some stores from the past people still miss, and will miss, like Hobee's when it closes. New restaurants that people really like. Turnover is normal.
There's simply more people, it's all good.
Would the city allow the car wash to build an underground parking there?
Posted by Bob , a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2012 at 10:31 am
We have that $$$ 'tunnel to nowhere' under the tracks for the relatively small number of pedestrians who use it - and a lot of homeless. Thee already were underpasses at Embarcadero and at University. But before the Palo Alto Clinic on El Camino was built and relocated from Channing and Waverley, residents 'begged' for an additional car entrance from Alma to the PAMF Clinic citing predicted backups on Embarcadero/ECR. So now we have to try to schedule any appointment with Paly's schedule and the daily commute times in mind. How many patients and employees go to the PAMF per day?
Last week traffic was backed up from El Camino almost all the way to Waverley ....And then there are ambulances trying to get through the mess. And by the way, design of the Embarcadero-T&C-Paly intersection was designed by Palo Alto's own Transportation Department. Maybe one of the problems is not allowing PALY students to 'push the button' to change the lights at their crossing.
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community, on Dec 10, 2012 at 11:34 am
Here is a radical idea for traffic, movement of cars and trucks.
Depress El Camino, certain key streets, entrances and exits via underground intersections. The above surface can be used for public safety vehicles, bike and walking paths. Of course don't forget open space used.
Posted by jm, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm
"Palo Alto should make Embarcadero one lane each way and El Camino 2 lanes each way with one lane devoted to busses only. Cut the parking at Paly by 2/3rds all to encourage everyone to either walk, ride their bikes or take public transportion. This is the goal of the leadership of Palo Alto to make it the most bike friendly city in the Country. It also has been discussed to make University Ave a mall to eliminate cars and trucks altogether."
He forgot to add that he intends to have padlocks across all the roads in and out of Palo Alto since most cars are from out of town.
Posted by DoubleDip, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm
Town and County has received City transportation benefits and money look at the new light at Embarcadero and Paly. Few other developments have received this kind of traffic improvement and neighborhood traffic calming. Stop the whining. The problem is situational Stanford Games and Shopping.
Publisize game days so we can take alternate roads!!
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm
PAPD facebook page announces Stanford games and other potential traffic problems a couple of days in advance. Like the page and get the updates.
Paly schedules change from day to day and often from week to week so don't rely on them.
On another note, the traffic is always bad there at high shopping times, Christmas run up, Weekends, etc. It is exacerbated by the fact that many of the exits from Stanford Shopping Center and Sand Hill Road makes the traffic turn sb on ECR when getting some of it onto Alma would help. That idiotic bottleneck preventing SandHill/ Alma cross traffic has a lot to do with this problem.
Palo Alto traffic engineers have got to realise that moving traffic efficiently around town with as little hindrance as possible makes more sense than preventing it from going where it wants to go. Slowing traffic to a crawl is not efficient movement of traffic, it won't make the traffic disappear or make more bikes around town.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2012 at 11:16 pm
"Paly schedules change from day to day and often from week to week so don't rely on them."
@ Resident: That's a little bit of an exaggeration. Paly starts every school day at 8:15am. Their "brunch" and "lunch" periods are the same MTuWTh, with them going slightly later on Fri. The only significant difference is that their dismissal times change just a bit. They get out at 3:25 MWF. 2:55 on Tues. 2:25 on Thurs.
Of course their schedule changes for final exams (1 week per semester). But hardly can be characterized as "week to week".
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community, on Dec 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm
I think most people know already what times to drive and not to drive. Footballs game for Stanford mostly happen on Saturday, otherwise you will hear about it. Events have always been publish in the papers or online. Schools have let out their students in the afternoon, just like students going to lunch in the afternoon, that is the same all over.
We have Embarcadero, which we all know it is a road with 2 lanes going each way, it was never meant to handle the sheer volume of traffic on such a narrow street. El Camino handle a large part of the traffic but again you can't expect it carry more and more with out adding to wait times.
Moving people, places and events won't help, that is like closing down Paly just to improve traffic or moving cars to one part of the parking lot to free up space. Guess what those spaces are going to be filled right back up.
Improving traffic signal times, alright that might help but again someone will have to wait longer. Longer turn lanes, just will add more space, mega intersections again more space. More entrances and exits, will just move cars from one place to another.